A path to success – what is it?

Ann Losevaby Anna Loseva

I remember in the methodology course at the university part of the material we were covering was the theory of how one (i.e. a teacher) can set up collaboration projects with learners from other countries, a pen pal kind of story. During seminars we would take notes on how students could write letters to one another and exchange postcards, asking and answering questions about holidays, food, famous sights, and other coursebook covered areas of “interest”. I was excited at the sound of it – what a thrilling experience for students it must be to actually use the language to communicate with others in English! I almost envied the learners of those days for having an opportunity to enjoy classes that I had never had myself. And then, remembering that I was supposed to be the teacher offering that opportunity… I could not fathom how exactly and where I would find those exchange partners.

That was year 2006. Five years later, through Twitter and Facebook, I found myself in a community of English language teachers worldwide, and now, in 2016, a project connecting classrooms from different parts of the globe sounds like a relatively simple thing to set up on my own…. Or does it?


I will never forget the first ever online exchange that I took part in. A teacher from France and I decided to connect our students, university science majors from France and Russia, by way of a wiki. To cut this not-so-long story short, the interaction never went further than mutual introductions. For my part, there was no way time-wise to do it in class, neither did we have an access to computers, so I could not follow through with even the first basic task. The initial enthusiasm subsided pretty quickly, possibly aided by the fact that the wiki activity was not obligatory for getting a grade for the course, for my students at least. There was no task following the introductions, then the course was soon over for me and my students, and thus the collaboration naturally faded.

What I could learn from that experience was that it should be clear for the teachers what the purpose of collaboration is, what the tasks are, the structure, and possibly even deadlines. Enthusiasm and energy of two teachers were obviously nowhere near enough to sustain a project involving twenty busy university students. In the years following that first lumpy pancake of an experience, I still wanted to open my classrooms to the online world of real communication in English, but I was cautious about starting a whole big project as I didn’t have confidence in myself. Instead, with various groups of students at various times, we created blogs and opened up their entries to the public for comments, we asked questions to Americans and to the British on the Lino boards and then devoured the many answers we got from teachers all over the world. Those activities spiced up the routine and opened space for interesting conversations in class.

Anna picture culture project

One of the courses I have been teaching in my new job in a high school in Japan is a culture course, part of which for the past four months has been a culture exchange project. I believe it was much better thought through than my first experience. The culture exchange is run through a Tumblr blog used to showcase students’ work, a Google Doc for the original discussion of the project idea by the teachers, and Facebook messages back and forth to keep each other up-to-date. Out of ten teachers who originally showed interest, five have committed and contributed with their students from South Korea, Russia, and Canada. We have done what now seems to be many things: students co-wrote blog entries about various facts from their cultures, their peers wrote questions based on these texts on Lino boards (you can see examples here and here). That was the only explicit way for students to engage in a conversation, as comments on the blog are disabled. My students also made presentations of unique Japanese activities and phenomena and some of them agreed to share their work on the blog for others to see.

With the school year almost over here in Japan, we are also nearing the end of this culture exchange, and so I follow my tradition of analyzing the work done. Reflecting on these few months, I came up with a list of questions teachers should probably ask themselves and have clear answers to before setting out on a big collaboration journey:

  • What is the age and language level of participating students?
  • How many classes a week do you have with these students? How many of those classes can you realistically devote to the project?
  • How much of their time outside class will students be willing to devote to the project?
  • What is the main goal and theme of the project?
  • Who is joining you? Is everyone ready to commit to an equal level of participation?
  • What is the contents and structure of your project?
  • What level of interaction between students do you expect?
  • Which online platforms are you planning to use? Are social networks like Facebook permitted for use in class by your school regulations?
  • How long is the project going to last?
  • Is the project going to be part of the course syllabus?

It is certainly clear by now that when it comes to connecting classrooms around the world, I am an enthusiastic newbie, with a limited experience behind my back but an earnest desire to give it a chance with my students. I feel driven by my initiative in the beginning stages of a project and then gradually I lose grip of it. Realizing that the questions posed above are insufficient, I consider this post a shout-out to those teachers who are more competent in the area of organizing international collaboration projects, to teachers who have gone through the first try-outs and can now share their stories of success (or failure?), offer their tips and guidelines. All these could serve a big helping hand for teachers like me, who need to steer the energy into the right direction with the specifics of preparation stages, further steps to take, and objective criteria of a project success, in addition to a student’s “I like it!” on a feedback form.

Connected Teacher as Traveller

Anna LosevaSeveral years ago, in my pre-iTDi times, I planned my classes alone surrounded by books and worksheets that were printed out from some generic database designed to help a busy teacher. For vacation I travelled abroad and completely forgot about teaching with no trace of remorse. Then I became part of this fascinating international community of teachers and things changed: I could now read posts about lessons held in Turkey, Switzerland or Croatia, talk to these teachers, file their ideas away in my mind, or even try them in my own class. My travelling horizons widened, too, as I caught the conference bug and ventured out on short “business trips”, which was a refreshing concept and a valuable learning experience for me as a teacher. Last year offered me what could be the culmination in this progression of change. Last year I discovered a new, absolutely staggering and transforming way of learning from my community.

I travelled classrooms.

Two months spent in South Korea and Japan in the fall of 2014 saw me sitting in, participating and even teaching classes of various sorts, all thanks to the kind, brave and welcoming teachers ready to open the doors. In every class I visited I took notes, which described the activities I observed and wanted to borrow for my class, as well as subtle nuances of individual teaching styles that I would never have learnt otherwise. Here are just a few.

Visualizing learning with Josette LeBlanc


Josette is a trainer for a teacher training program, for which Korean school teachers take about 6 months off their jobs and plunge into serious and responsible professional training. Well, as I found out, there are far better adjectives to describe their learning than “serious”. As I entered their classroom, I was charmed. The fact is that the space, even if empty at that point as yet, had a distinctly tangible personal feel – hand-made posters, trainees’ writing and exhibition of their work, important learning outcomes mapped out on colourful paper “hugging” the room and people in it. One specific poster I remember vividly was for the vocabulary to talk about senses that came from a book they’d read, apparently to be used to teach descriptive writing. I spent quite some time at that poster and learnt new words!

All in all, I wondered if a mere fact of decorating classroom walls with meaningful, personalized messages, which are part of  those teachers’ learning course, would impact the way the group and their teacher communicate. I think it does.

Staying cool with Anne Hendler

That was an unforgettable day that I spent at the language school where Anne works. I sat in all six classes she taught that day and never felt bored or willing to leave and take a walk outside. In one of the classes Anne set up a tic tac toe game to revise Present Continuous. There was a boys’ team playing against a girls’ team, and the energetic teen girls very quickly got very loud and excited. To my surprise, not a single emotional comment during the fiery discussion went off the teacher’s lips. Every word Anne said was to the point of the game – no “bringing them to senses”, digressing, patronizing or telling off. That was the most impressive way I’d ever seen anybody deal with a group of boisterous, and what to me would seem unruly, teens. I walked out of that class stunned and amazed at the personality of that Teacher.

Tech and bingo with Mari Yamauchi

Mari Yamauchi, a teacher I know specifically from the Students Connected Facebook group that we started together, invited me to join her class in Chiba University of Commerce. For that lesson she had prepared this Padlet wall with nontrivial Russian and Japanese culture facts so that we could play Bingo for our mini cultural exchange. It was an utter surprise for me and a lot of fun for everybody, in the end. We first made our guesses whether those statements about our countries were true or not, and then as the game proceeded, we discussed each statement in more detail. Not only did I learn that “matryoshka” aka the Russian nesting doll originates from Japan, but also saw in practice how Padlet could be used creatively and successfully in class.


Reading, Thinking and Writing with Kevin Stein



Interestingly, nearly every teacher who invited me to visit their lesson excused themselves for the class being “not exciting”, to which my response was every time the same: “This might be a regular, “just another” class for you, but for me it is a whole new world”. One might argue that a lesson on extensive reading could indeed be boring… however, that did not happen for me. Kevin Stein invited me to join the first Extensive Reading class in my life. It was silent and beautiful.

Students picked books from a selection of graded readers and sat down to their desks arranged in a circle. I picked my all time favourite, too. For about 25 minutes we read in silence. As the timer went off, all students were instantly alert and ready to do the next activity, asking for no instructions as they knew the rules very well. You can find a thorough explanation of the Read Think Write activity in this blog post, but in short what I saw was this:

The students opened the front page of the book they’d just been reading and read as much text as they could remember. They then closed the book and wrote the text from memory in their notebooks, never consulting the original. Once finished, they put a slash and returned to where they’d stopped reading and repeated the process. This lasted for 7 minutes. And it won’t be an exaggeration to say that I actually wanted badly to join them and read, think, write myself!

Using classroom space with David Sandbrook

On the same day, after being impressed with the power of silent reading, I joined a speaking class of a teacher I’d just met in that school, David Sandbrook. David’s students were about 8 Japanese high school kids and me. The time flew by and only by the end of my second hour there it dawned on me what made this learning time different for me. In a chain of activities planned by the teacher, every other one presupposed a certain alteration – either a different partner for group work, or a move to another zone in the classroom. There might have been four or five such changes and they helped keep the focus and attention on every new task. It is undoubtedly one of my big objectives for this new teaching year to make use of classroom space with more ease and confidence!

Travelling from class to class was an unforgettable Adventure of its own kind. My whole understanding of travelling has been turned upside down thanks to the teachers who not only care to share links, comments and their online time, but are similarly willing to expose the sacred space behind the closed doors of their classrooms. From that Adventure on, I can’t get past the gripping idea of knocking on another classroom doors in my future trips =) To me, this story from my own life is a perfect example and a proof of how a door open online can mean the openings of so many other doors.

You can find more detailed results of my class observations in Asia published in several places on my blog …

In Michael Griffin’s class

In Josette LeBlanc’s class

In Michael Chesnut’s class

Teachers As Students – Anna

Language Learning Stories – Anna Loseva

Ann Loseva

My name is Anna. I’m a Russian English language teacher. I live and teach in my native Moscow and have always done that. Also, I’ve been learning English here in various kinds of educational institutions for 22 years. Here’s my story of learning languages which I guess could bear some resemblance to the stories of some of you.


Story #1 – Herzlich Willkommen!

I studied German as my second foreign language at university for 3 years and then tried to sustain my level with self-studies for about a year. I have some vague memories of that and I might remember a few words and grammar rules that I memorized by heart. I doubt I will succeed making an intelligent conversation partner at anything over A1 level. Incidentally, I have never been to or was going to go to Germany.


Story #2 – Mi piace …

(an example of weird sample sentences in some language learning apps)

I took up Italian twice. First time I was enthralled by the vivid descriptions and eloquent stories about Italian language and culture experience of my adult student, a lady who was totally smitten with anything and everything Italian. I signed up for an Italian course on the BBC website (these courses, unfortunately, are no longer provided), bought myself a colourful new notebook for the good purpose of future accomplishments, … and managed about 4 out of 12 weeks of classes. It was exciting, useful, and I honestly put all the effort and spare time I could into this project. The second time I took a new lease of Italian was last summer before my Italian holidays. I had become a more conscious learner by then: I had a clear view of my goal. Within a month of intensive self-studies with nothing more than an iPad Busuu app, I acquired quite a bit of the simplest Italian vocabulary and a basic understanding of how to make a short utterance on my own. That was enough for me at that time and I was quite satisfied. I enjoyed speaking bits of Italian here and there on my trip and felt no need to continue the course upon my return. Italian is a truly fascinating and beautiful language, though.


Story #3 – いただきます, also known as itadakimasu.

I never saw it coming. Never had I felt even th slightest intent to take up any Asian language –  before I visited Japan for JALT 2013, that is. Not that I instantly fell in love with the language, with its mind-boggling (at that time to me) three writing systems, no, that was not what happened. But I did fall for the country, for its air (in a broad and slightly metaphorical sense,) and for the atmosphere that I got to feel during my short stay, for the people I met.  For some inexplicable reason, the place suddenly felt like the place to be for me, so when I returned home it was only natural to start studying the language. It’s been about 10 months now, and you can read here and here about the process in more detail while one more post is on its way. I’m experimenting with the ways to learn this time, and I’m doing this with more awareness than ever before.

One revelation that I’d like to share here is about grammar. The most controversial move in my Japanese self-studies was reading a grammar reference book and actually finding this activity useful. Knowing my natural teaching style, I’d never imagine myself assigning the reading of several chapters of a grammar book as a task for my students (especially for real beginners!). In fact, I would not be likely to even recommend a dry grammar guide for its lack of practicality. Surprising as it is,  a fact remains a fact. My friend wisely noted once that this strange reading choice could be beneficial to me as I’m a language teacher and also a bit of a linguist, by education. I’m ready to agree that there’s a point to such reasoning, though I’m not ready to think of myself as superior in language learning abilities than any one of my students due to this fact only.

I can proudly say that story #3 is an ongoing language-learning project and the one I’ve probably been most consistent with, if not most successful in, yet.


Story #4 – 파이팅, also known as paiting.

On October 1st I’ll arrive in South Korea and will be staying there for over a month. In  view of that, I thought it respectful, good manners, and actually practically useful to study Korean. I don’t set objectives for myself higher than merely being able to read hangul, the Korean script. Ideally, I’d also learn to say a few touristy basics, realizing all the time that saying something in a foreign language is just part of a communication situation, and not even half of it.

In the three weeks of studying Korean off and on, I’ve been using the following ways (which seem to have become characteristic for my language learning practice): downloading many apps and working with as many of them as one; printing out the alphabet, looking at it and writing lines and lines of these new symbols; watching video lessons on Youtube and other sites recommended by friends; following Instagram accounts where I can have exposure to Korean. So far it’s just been about training myself to reach some decent level of reading fluency. I’m taking it slow, though.


Story #5 – Me writing my stories.

This story is about my English. There was one summer, about 6 years ago, when I spent a couple of months with no access to the Internet, without any practise writing, reading, speaking, or listening: Total abstinence from English for two months. When I returned to class in September, I was horrified.  I could barely express myself in the way I remembered myself being able to. I was struggling with vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar, and more importantly, I was suffering psychologically that this could have happened to me.

Since that one instructive time I’ve always been doing something to keep my English at the level I could be more or less content with. I learn by writing regularly in my reading journal.  I learn by always volunteering to teach higher-level groups, if that’s possible. I learn by reading, commenting, chatting, watching series, and challenging myself to present at conferences. I learn by writing these blog posts in the end. At the moment my active learning phase involves me working on exercises from a guide on creative writing. This creative writing book is nothing fancy, academically wise. No lists of lexis I need to acquire to qualify my writing as creative, no lists of recommended literature to read after which I’ll be safely inspired. Yet it gives me more confidence and a nudge to persist than any inspirational quote or article that can be found online in abundance.



I want to finish by sharing some of my reflections, because these days I think I’m finally learning something from contemplating how I learn. So what have I learnt?

  1. I’ve learnt that, although language has order and structure, it can be studied in a “hopping” style: scattered practice of various skills, doing 15 minutes of writing today, 20 minutes of a Youtube grammar lesson tomorrow, to follow up with 10 minutes of working on a song lyrics the next day.
  1. In connection with the previous point, I’ve learnt (or rather proved for myself from a different perspective) that I’m too easily and quickly bored with monotony of learning, once it gets into the routine. I’ve learnt that my learning style (and apparently teaching style stems from this, too) begs me to find variety.
  1. Regularity is what truly counts and makes a difference, as does having a well-articulated aim.
  1. I would like to think deeper into how my discoveries as a language student can impact my own students.

One of my colleagues asked me in a conversation on Facebook the other day: “You always seem to be working on your language improvement; how long does it take in your life, like, hours? every day? Do you do this self-study on a regular basis? Do you ever feel guilty about taking up a new language?

I hope I answered these nice questions now. As for guilt… frankly speaking, I have a very acute sense of guilt – about many things, including being late on meeting deadlines for articles and presentation prep. But it looks like this list does not include taking up a new language, even if soon quite possibly giving it up. =)


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More Creative Writing – Ann

Ann Loseva

Concerns About “Creative Writing
–  Ann Loseva


Eight years ago I was studying German as a second foreign language at the teacher training university I later graduated from. I remember writing a two-stanza poem in German as homework once. My task was to include irregular (strong) verb forms, and so I composed the most ridiculous and meaningless poem ever. Luckily the endings so conveniently and effortlessly rhymed. I didn’t feel creative or victorious over the language then. I still don’t know why forceful poetry writing should necessarily be seen as practising creative writing, and I hope all poetry lovers can excuse me for saying that. My skepticism extends beyond just poems to the notion of creative writing in general.

Ironically, the likely arguable truth that I’m currently preaching to my students and myself is that writing is a panacea. Writing helps systematize thoughts and then express them more clearly in speaking. Writing helps us process reading better. Writing to me is about the most consuming activity, demanding real and serious brain effort. Seeing the words pouring out of your pen or keyboard is getting evidence of what relationship with a language you have. No wonder these two terms my students have been faced with a lot of writing tasks. There’s been no label “creative” for any of these tasks, though, mostly because I’m doubtful these tasks have been creative. My doubts originate from the unobvious and controversial meaning of the word creative — which seems to bother me quite a bit these days. Those concerns run along these lines:

  • If creative stands for something that is out of the box, then I can’t help mentioning that what’s out of the box for each and every single student, for me, for any teacher is different. What are (or are there any) measuring guidelines and thresholds for creative writing?
  • What is supposed to be seen and valued as creative – form, content, viewpoint, a combination of these?
  • If creativity is about expressing your individual perspective, is an opinion essay an example of creative writing?
  • Is a student who articulates his/her opinion concisely in 2 sentences less creative than a mate writing up a whole page on the same idea?
  • Are there any level priorities? Will my students of a very low level and limited skills to construct sentences be devoid of this opportunity to write up something creative?

There’s a student I teach who turns upside down every simplest writing task. None of his sentences, following the most elementary of patterns, is ever serious or matches the task completely. Answering questions, completing sentences, rephrasing – he always puts his own spin to the task, he plays with the language to make us laugh, to seem ridiculous, to always be different. There’s a lot about how English works that this student has yet to learn. Still, it’s amazing how he can be that smart and free with the language while apparently having very basic and vague understanding of it. I can imagine that for some teachers his attempts to draw attention through his linguistic experiments would seem sheer nonsense, but to me this is an understanding of where his kind of creativity stems from.

In fact, do individual and original equal creative? How do I measure the originality of a learner of a foreign language when I stuff their heads with the same vocabulary items and grammar patterns? Some students may not have the language feel and extensive vocabulary, and yet are very concise in linguistic expression.

Another student of mine, a shy boy, a hardworking but not well performing learner, made a presentation. He’d prepared his text well and learnt it by heart. He couldn’t connect words to make up grammatically correct replies to his group-mates’ questions afterwards. But the captions to the photos on his slides were unforgettable. The presentation entitled “The dark side of tourism” featured such dark sides on slides as “Mosquitos. Mites. Bears.” and “Fire. Wood. Firewood.” This is creative writing, if you ask me.

What else is creative writing? When I run thin on ideas, I turn to my students for inspiration and insights, and most often I get what I look for. Two groups of students, all of them majoring in Physics, took my call seriously and answered (in what was not “creative writing” form) the following question: What does “creative writing” mean to you? 

Here are some of their thoughts – which served as both proof and revelations on the topic for me and opened up a range of perspectives on what can be considered creative writing. It’s also my belief that they wrote these lines somewhat creatively.

Creative writing is constantly searching for words and expressions, the process of exploring the language and its potential.

Creative writing is conscious rule breaking.

Creative writing means crossing the borders of the task. It’s like feeling that you can do more than will satisfy you and make people really get into your work. For example, this task (answering the question) wasn’t done with creativity. Come remake everything as tiny ideas visualize in thoughts *of* yours.

Usual writing is something that a writer has to do, but creative writing is something that a writer wants to do, he’s interested in what he writes.

Creative writing is such type of writing where we can see some personality of a writer. It may be a special way of expressing thoughts or use of specific terms. It also may be the introduction of new concepts, for example copyright neologisms.

Creative writing means that I don’t cheat on it and don’t use a template.

And finally, an indirect proof that I’m no creative writing teacher: I think creative writing is a composition. I don’t like this, it’s difficult for me to express my thoughts, especially in English, of course this should be studied. I am not sure I’ll be glad if this activity appears in our classes.

As you might have already guessed, I don’t seem to teach much creative writing. I hope I’m doing my best to make my students see that they can write in English and cope with the challenges I give them. “Trying” for creative language output seems self-deluding and unfairly demanding of students. However, there are learners who keep amazing me by causing me to question my aversion to … poem writing. A couple of days ago during a brainstorm of ideas for our final class with postgraduate Physics students, one of the first ideas that came up to them was to write a scientific poem together.

Next week I’m going to teach creative scientific poetry writing. Never say never.


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More Teaching One to One – Ann

Ann Loseva

Personality Matters in One-to-One
– Ann Loseva


The one-to-one classroom is a meeting point of two personalities. Not convinced that the teacher’s personality should be a shadow that completely yields or that being an equal makes a lesson teacher-centred, the observations which follow have at their center the idea that in a one-on-one class the teacher’s personality matters.


Observation #1: My 1-to-1 classroom is unplugged and adaptive.

It took several years and many factors (an increase in confidence being most meaningful) to start feeling more or less at peace with classes going their own way, the way the two personalities in a lesson shape them. As soon as I looked up from a coursebook and into a student’s eyes, I began to notice more of what our class could bring. In this light, my belief now is that there hardly is a better place to test teaching dogme style than a one-to-one class. For me as a non-native teacher of English, the teaching style I’ve deliberately chosen is still demanding in every lesson I give. Going light on materials we use, taking advantage of flashes of “lesson sparks” and turning them into conversations, being focused on every line my students produce – all of these require a certain attitude, as well as experience. And as experience goes, a series of such lessons might easily become a mess of a course. At first, I was too happily blown away by all the potentials and freedom this approach gave me, so no wonder that I kept falling into the trap of having no aim or direction. At this point I’m still not fail-safe as a teacher, but with time have collected a list of tips for myself and worked out a rough scheme of potential course scenarios. The strategies I use include:

Talking about the student: The first class revolves around finding out as much information as possible about the previous language learning experience of a student, its impact, its footprint and basic feeling about English it has left behind. We discuss details, reflect on the effectiveness of methods a student can recall. We pinpoint the situations of current language use and prioritize skills to improve. It’s absolutely necessary to set a realistic aim and objectives to go with it. We also take our time to mind-map the areas of interest, curiosity and “mastery” of a student – which means answering questions like: “What are you good at? What do you know a lot about? What’s in your Facebook feed? What do you need to talk/ learn about?”

Structuring the course: According to the information I find out during the first chunk of lessons, I will usually create an online space for our classes, which for me acts as a way to “hold” the course together by keeping communication with the student in a back and forth regime. I usually feel after one or two classes what fits this particular student. My suggestions include regular emails, Facebook or a shared Google document to accompany the classes, but I’m always open for any other ideas. In the recent year or so I’ve been trying out various ways to get students reflect on their learning on a regular basis, which I now see as a very important feature of my class. Students are informed that the course is flexible and negotiating its contents is one the keys for making progress. To make that work, though, I ensure we get back to learning priorities regularly and revisit our aims. The latest introduction for me is working more seriously on building up a retrospective syllabus for each class I teach. I’m still in the process of figuring it out for myself, but I hope it will help me avoid messing things up and being disappointed.

Advice to myself : On a practical basis, I’ve learnt not to cry over a lesson plan that doesn’t become useful for several lessons in a row. That only means we’ve found a new direction for the learning, and being “present” in a class and aware of the turns it takes for me as a teacher is much more important than following plans. I’m prepared to get sidetracked, use the digressions and their emergent language, as well as recurrent mistake patterns.


Observation #2  My 1-to-1 classroom is hopefully a space of shared trust.

Teaching one-to-one has taught me to be open to, recognize, appreciate and value idiosyncrasies. There’s no other type of class where personality matters more.  A match is not quite the same as building good rapport. It presupposes even more understanding, trust, sensitivity to your student’s concerns, unfeigned interest, and a genuine desire to help. Under these conditions, a teacher is at his/her most vulnerable in a one-to-one classroom. I don’t support the conventional opinion that a teacher should put on a cheerful mask as he/she enters a class. That sounds hypocritical and unfair to both students and teachers. It is definitely easier, but something that pays off emotionally in the long run. I want the 60 or 90 minutes I spend with my student to be a comfortable time for us both, so I shake off any pretense. It does take courage to get the message across – that I’m a teacher but I won’t know the answers to all of the sudden, often untimely and illogical questions. Yet this is how I suggest we should both learn, in a flux of a lesson, as dynamic or low key as my student and I will be on that particular day. And I hope I’m ready to realize that every day of class is another day. Once my class becomes this space of trust, I believe I start seeing the students I teach as interesting people with views that should be respected but which I don’t need to agree with, influence or impose my values and beliefs on. A one-to-one class is ultimately a place of concession for me.


Observation #3  My 1-to-1 classroom feeds my curiosity.

I enjoy the private lessons I give on a very egotistic level, too. I crave surprise, and the format and style of such classes never fails to provide me with amazement and revelation. More than just that, I’ll admit here to being also a greedy and selfish teacher, so I ruthlessly exploit lessons to quench my thirst for knowledge. Together with and from my students I learn the things I’d never know. The diversity of my students’ backgrounds (to mention just a few – advertising, technology, logistics, insurance, tourism, HR, medicine) opens up parallel universes to me. The tricky part here is realizing for yourself and then putting up with the apparent truth that you don’t know more than your students do, so the roles of a teacher and a student are not so rigid. Once you’ve come to terms with this, it takes no more than a deep breath to start learning from your students’, from the best of their skills, from the depths of their professional scopes.

Here are a few things I have recently done which I would never have imagined myself doing had it not been for my private students include …

  • I tried my hand at a certified exam test for auditors (CIA) and answered several questions correctly, at sight.
  • I’ve been offered a job at a senior management position which entitled me to helping bring some brand new snacks to the Russian snack market.
  • I know in detail how the alcohol import industry works in Russia.

Naturally, I don’t practically need all that, but the realization that I can have a chance to peek into some other reality than my ordinary teacher’s life is always too tempting for me to resist.
A one-to-one class can get very tense, especially if you are over personalizing the process. However, I still think that interpersonal skills, being able to sense the moods and their swings can change learning, both for the better and the worse. For a teacher in a one-to-one course there are always options to choose from. There’s the distant way, which is safe and pleasant:  teach the material, be amiable, respond to the learner’s needs and be free till next class. And there’s this shaky, uncomfortable way in which you remain yourself, bring your self into the lesson and share on equal terms.  Which way you go is up to you.


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